Lecturer and Postdoctoral Fellow in Critical Translation Studies Marlon James Sales was interviewed by BBC Mundo, the Spanish desk of the BBC, for a feature story on the history of the Spanish language in the Philippines. The article explores why Spanish is not spoken as a major language in the Philippines despite having been a colony of Spain for more than three centuries.
Professor Sales discusses the historical, political, and religious aspects of colonial rule that kept Spanish in the Philippines within a limited social niche. He also points out that though a majority of Filipinos do not speak the language, many elements of Spanish have been incorporated into indigenous languages and are still used in specific contexts of speaking. Professor Sales’ Sawyer Seminar on March 12 and its associated virtual book exhibit, Translation, Memory, and the Archive: The Literary Worlds of the Spanish Philippines, will further explore the language politics and history discussed in his interview.
Some highlights from Professor Sales’ interview translated to English below:
“For 333 years, Spanish was the language of the government and the Church, and royal decrees mandated the use of Spanish among the indigenous population.”
“[The colonizers] noticed that many [people] spoke Tagalog in the Manila region and Bisaya (Cebuano) in the central island, so they learned [these languages].”
“We [Filipinos] have a passive knowledge of Spanish, as 30% of Tagalog comes from Spanish.”
“Everything depends on context. Sometimes we say numbers in English, other times in Filipino, and others in Spanish.”